Monday, February 26, 2007

It's All Too Beautiful

GilDodgen at Uncommon Descent has an interesting meditation triggered by a reading of Michael Denton's classic work titled Nature's Destiny: How the Laws of Biology Reveal Purpose in the Universe.

GilDodgen considers just one tiny aspect of the laws of physics, the physics of sound, and contemplates the amazing fact that the laws of physics are precisely suited to allowing us to experience music:

Isn't it also interesting that the physics of sound is just right to create scales, harmonies, consonance and dissonance, and that musical instruments can be made from common materials?

Music is based on the physics of sound - in particular, the overtone series which is produced when a string or column of air vibrates in integer multiples. The division of the octave into 12 semitones is not an accident or a matter of personal preference; this produces notes that coincide with the overtone series. This is the basis of melody and harmony, and why some sounds are dissonant and some sounds are consonant.

Imagine a world without music: no music accompanying the movies you watch, no music in your church services, no music on the radio or television, no violinists, no pianists, no guitarists, no singers, no songs - no music at all! Wouldn't your life be indescribably impoverished? Music is a totally abstract art form, but has tremendous power and meaning in our lives.

When I was in college I took a number of courses in music theory. I remember a chapter in a book about melody. All the technical elements of melodic composition were discussed but there was one final comment that struck me (I paraphrase): Most people associate "melody" with something that cannot be described, but they know it when they hear it, and there is no way to teach how to write a good melody. Each note seems to naturally flow from the preceding one.

The more we learn the more it becomes apparent that the universe was rigged for humans, from top to bottom, and in almost every way. Our universe is a very meaningful one.

Everything we learn about the world seems to confirm this assertion, which is why statements like that made by Steven Weinberg at the end of his book The First Three Minutes: "The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless," appear more and more ludicrous with every new discovery.


Triple Rings

One of the many beautiful photos taken by the Hubble telescope is this one of a triple-ringed supernova:

How these rings were formed has long puzzled scientists, but it seems now that a pair of astronomers at Oxford may have figured it out. See this article at New Scientist for the details.



The trial of Lewis Libby has been a farce from the beginning. A man's life is being devastated by a fanatical prosecutor who evidently shares some of the same genes as Mike Nifong, the contemporary Torquemada who prosecuted (persecuted?)the Duke lacrosse players who were accused of rape.

For a quick overview of the case and an indictment of the prosecutor, Patrick Fitzgerald, we recommend Mona Charen's column on the subject. It's brief and tells you everything you need to know to bring you up to speed in case, like most people, you haven't been paying much attention.

Viewpoint likes the word being bandied about to describe what happens to people who fall afoul of prosecutors like Nifong and Fitzgerald who mistake themselves for Medieval inquisitors. Such hapless souls are said to have been Fitzfonged. We think it'll stick.